The Expat Life: When Visiting Home Can Lead to Unexpected Disappointment

The Expat Life: When Visiting Home Can Lead to Unexpected Disappointment

Delighting in simple pleasures during our trip home to the U.S. this summer

Delighting in simple pleasures during our trip home to the U.S. this summer

The excitement that is summer.

It is hard for anyone to contain their excitement for summer, but even more so when you are an expat. For families who live overseas, summer is synonymous with returning home, visiting family and friends, and going back to a place of comfort and familiarity. For our family, it means spending time with family boating and cooking out in the wilderness of Virginia. It’s blueberry picking, playing in Lake Michigan with cousins, and delighting in red, white, and blue popsicles. It’s having a lemonade stand and going out for “American-style” pancakes at IHOP at any hour. It’s s’more-making, slip-n’-slides, and good old shopping trips to Target and Trader Joe’s. It’s seeing a children’s film at the movie theater in English. Going home is the ultimate.

With that being said, we always seem to encounter the same disappointment (one which we often choose to ignore) during these visits home. As much as we look forward to getting back and seeing everyone, our friends and families’ lives and routines continue and sometimes it is hard for them to find time for us. This is hurtful. This is painful. This is frustrating.

Hear me out on this. I’m conflicted.

In one respect, I understand that people have their routines, their commitments, their summer camps and vacation plans and that the world does not stop for us when we land State-side. I get that. I respect that.

On the other hand, I have just traversed oceans and continents with my three young children to see you. We have made multiple connections and crossed over several time zones to visit you.

Yet sometimes the ones we come to visit are simply too busy to make the 20-minute drive to where we are staying. Or in the span of one week, they only have a two-hour time window when kids will be home from summer camp and we can come say hello and have dinner (if we make the 2-hour round-trip drive to them, of course). Or they have kids they need to take to tutoring, swimming, you name it – so they don’t have time to sit and enjoy us. They are just – as they always are – busy.

Airport musical chairs: here we go!

Airport musical chairs: here we go!

I know that I’m complaining. And in all honesty, writing this is cathartic. But I feel that all too often these days people are not placing enough importance on maintaining relationships with family and friends. People (myself included) could do a better job at prioritizing and realizing what really matters in life. Is it that one day of theater camp or is it the chance to see friends you haven’t seen in a year or two? Is it that rushed schedule that you feel compelled to maintain or the chance to clear your schedule for a couple of days and enjoy the company of your loved ones? Priorities, priorities. What matters to you?

Maybe I feel this way because I’m getting older. Maybe it is harder for me than others because we do travel a long way to see our loved ones. Maybe it is because we want so much to savor this summer homecoming because we only have a short time to make and strengthen family bonds. Maybe it is our fault for choosing this transient lifestyle and moving away in the first place.

I’m sure it’s not coming from a place of malice on behalf of our family and friends. To be honest, I’m not sure they even realize that we feel hurt and disappointed by it. And I feel it’s patronizing and selfish to point out the fact that we wish they were around more when we come home to visit. After all, they have lives and things going on, too.

So where does this leave us? Do some conversations need to take place? Maybe. Do we need to readjust our summer plans and actually take a true summer vacation every other summer instead of coming home to carve time out for family and friends who aren’t around? Maybe. Do I just need to chill and realize that this is the way it is? I just don’t know. But one thing is certain, s’more-making and Trader Joe’s never do disappoint.

If you’re an expat how do you juggle going on “real holidays” vs visiting relatives back home? If you’re the one at home, how does it feel to have travelling families visit?

This is an original post for World Moms Network written by  Loren Braunohler in Poland.

Loren Braunohler

Loren Braunohler is a former U.S. diplomat turned stay-at-home mom and freelance writer. She is a world traveler who avoids the cold (don't ask why she is currently in Poland). Former assignments have included Mozambique, Venezuela, Australia, Sudan, Thailand and Washington, D.C. She enjoys running, although she probably enjoys sleeping even more. Loren blogs about her family's international adventures and parenting at

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INDONESIA: Positive things I have learned as an expat.

INDONESIA: Positive things I have learned as an expat.

A few months ago we celebrated our “Asia-versary”, marking six years since we packed up our life in Portland, Oregon and moved to Dili, East Timor with our twin toddlers.

In some ways, it feels like yesterday. I can easily recall the very vivid sense of taking a giant leap into the world, equally nervous and excited. But it also feels like a lifetime ago.

After spending nearly two years in East Timor, followed by four years in Indonesia, we now feel like reasonably experienced riders of the expat rollercoaster. When new arrivals ask how long we’ve lived in Jakarta (and that we will likely be here for another four), they react with wide eyes…“Oh, wow!” This long-term status is unusual but I don’t really mind.

Our diaper-clad toddlers are now full-blown big kids who do not remember our pre-Asia life. Recently my daughter said, “I think we’ve lived in Jakarta for long enough now. Can we please move to Africa?” “Well, no. Not right now, anyway,” I replied – amused that such a move seemed entirely plausible to her, but also a little concerned by the normalcy of transience.

Though I sometimes miss the shiny novelty of being a new expat, I also appreciate our settled life in Jakarta.

Here are six things I have learned about making the most of this unique experience.

Choose the positive

Jakarta is not an easy city to love. The daily challenges of mega-city living – traffic, flooding, pollution and lack of green space – can really wear you down. Though we all have our bad days, choosing to have a positive attitude makes a world of difference. Unexpected traffic jam? Extra time to listen to my favorite podcast. There really is a lot to love here. It is a vibrant, friendly and generally safe city where just about anything is possible (and everything can be delivered). When I focus on the good things, more good things come.

Accept the chaos

In Jakarta, things often do not go to plan and the concept of jam karet (“rubber time”) takes some getting used to. However, learning to let go of being in control of everything and practicing a less-hurried approach to life can be valuable lessons. We love visiting Singapore because it feels like a breath of fresh air. Everything works, everyone follows the rules, you can walk everywhere! But after a few days I am always happy to return home. It turns out I like things a little messier and less predictable. It keeps life interesting.

Say yes

Living in a different country requires you to step out of your comfort zone on a regular basis. It provides countless opportunities to “say yes” to new experiences that may not have been available before. I have seen friends learn to play an instrument, take up a new sport, climb mountains, get dive certified, learn new languages, undertake distance learning and start small businesses. Last year I ran my first 5K and 10K races and performed with a dance group in front of 600 people. These are things I never would have done in my previous life. I am so glad I said yes.

Treasure friendship

One of the best parts of expat life is the community of friends. We all rely on each other and the bonds often feel familial. Close friends fill in for far away aunties, uncles and cousins. The downside is that most families will eventually leave and the annual exodus can be particularly tough for those left behind. But as sad as it is to say goodbye, it is also wonderful to know people in so many different places. We have been lucky to re-connect with some of our Dili and Jakarta friends during our summer travels, making the world feel both smaller and bigger. I love that paths do cross again.

Stay connected

I sometimes worry that our kids are missing out on a lot by not growing up in our home countries. The fact that they don’t remember our life before we moved to East Timor makes it even more important to stay connected to “home”, which is sometimes an abstract concept for them. Although home is where we live, home is also the US and UK – where we are from and where our families live. Fortunately we are able to visit every summer and have grandparents that can travel to see us in Jakarta. Prioritizing these special relationships helps us to feel rooted and connected.

Keep exploring

After living in the same place for a while, it is easy to get caught up in the daily routine and forget to notice the little things that make the experience unique.

The magic might fade but it is still important to keep learning and exploring. For me this can simply mean looking out the car window (instead of at my phone) or walking the nearby alleyways on my lunch break to appreciate glimpses of local life. I try to keep learning and using Bahasa Indonesia. I also keep lists of new things to do and places to go. Though we have plenty of time to tackle these activities, I am also aware that expat life can be precarious and is never guaranteed. I don’t want to take it for granted for a second.

This is an original post by World Mom Shaula Bellour in Indonesia

Shaula Bellour (Indonesia)

Shaula Bellour grew up in Redmond, Washington. She now lives in Jakarta, Indonesia with her British husband and 9-year old boy/girl twins. She has degrees in International Relations and Gender and Development and works as a consultant for the UN and non-governmental organizations. Shaula has lived and worked in the US, France, England, Kenya, Eritrea, Kosovo, Lebanon and Timor-Leste. She began writing for World Moms Network in 2010. She plans to eventually find her way back to the Pacific Northwest one day, but until then she’s enjoying living in the big wide world with her family.

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TANZANIA: Eye of the Hurricane

TANZANIA: Eye of the Hurricane

I recently discovered that there are 5 things deemed the most stressful in life. The topic came up in a conversation I was having with a friend and I was shocked to check two boxes out of the five that were listed! Box 2. Getting married, Box 4. Moving.

“How did you get here,” begs the obvious question!

Well, we have been working on our home for a little over a year now. Like many who have done it before, we have had to learn the hard way that construction is no easy feat. Whatever your plan, expect it to take double the time and cost twice as much. Somewhere within that space, my longtime partner proposed to me. So – yes! – we also had a wedding to plan. We had originally planned for a small affair at the beginning of the year, anticipating to move into our new house before July.

As life would have it, owing to work obligations, we had to switch things around. Now we are getting married AND moving into our new home at the same time, mid-year. Through all this, I have felt tested more than ever before. In between wedding planning, my day job, community work, dealing with the construction, and being a mother, it has often left me stretched too thin!

I must say though, I feel this is what we as mothers and women are best at. We handle it, all and all. Week by week I read amazing stories on World Moms Blog about women and mothers the world over that inspire me and sustain me.

Even though, it feels like I am in the eye of the hurricane, my feet are firmly in the ground, my focus is sharper than ever, and I am not wavered in my resolve. How? Well I am a World mom aren’t I?

What challenges have you endured as a woman and a mother? How do you manage it all?

This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Nancy Sumari in Tanzania.

Image credit to the author. 

USA: My Favorite Relationship Dos and Don’ts

USA: My Favorite Relationship Dos and Don’ts


I love post-prompts like this one, as they make me think about my everyday actions, especially the ones that come out of habits I created overtime, and no longer think about.  Let’s get right to it and I’ll say that even though some of my dos and don’ts apply to varying types of relationships, I am focusing on romantic relationships like the one I have the pleasure of having with the man who is my husband. These are only a few of my favorites: (more…)


I am a mom amongst some other titles life has fortunately given me. I love photography & the reward of someone being really happy about a photo I took of her/him. I work, I study, I try to pay attention to life. I like writing. I don't understand many things...especially why humans treat each other & other living & inanimate things so vilely sometimes. I like to be an idealist, but when most fails, I do my best to not be a pessimist: Life itself is entirely too beautiful, amazing & inspiring to forget that it is!

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USA: Call me MOMPRENEUR, I don’t mind.

USA: Call me MOMPRENEUR, I don’t mind.


Photo credit: Iryna Ishchenko Photography

Sometime ago, I opened my email and saw this subject line in my inbox: “Mompreneur. Worst word ever.” At first it made me kind of irritated, and I almost moved that email to the trash without reading it. Then I actually read it. I wanted to see who and why would say that a word that describes a business woman who wears way more hats than anybody else, should be so shameful for using that word. At that point in my life I was very proud of using this word to describe myself, and I was curious, because maybe, just maybe, I was missing something. (more…)

Ewa Samples

Ewa was born, and raised in Poland. She graduated University with a master's degree in Mass-Media Education. This daring mom hitchhiked from Berlin, Germany through Switzerland and France to Barcelona, Spain and back again! She left Poland to become an Au Pair in California and looked after twins of gay parents for almost 2 years. There, she met her future husband through Couch Surfing, an international non-profit network that connects travelers with locals. Today she enjoys her life one picture at a time. She runs a photography business in sunny California and document her daughters life one picture at a time. You can find this artistic mom on her blog, Ewa Samples Photography, on Twitter @EwaSamples or on Facebook!

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ONTARIO, CANADA: Forty and Freaking Out

ONTARIO, CANADA: Forty and Freaking Out

children at the beach

Our family has gone through some serious upheaval over the past two years. We’re talking big city to small town relocation, major job changes, the birth of our youngest, and the final resignation of my job as I officially became a stay at home mom (SAHM) for an indefinite period to deal with our children’s special needs. Whew! I can feel my stress level rising just thinking about it.

Our family embraces change with the best of them, and we tend to take many things in stride. Dealing with two children with complex needs is just something we do. Homeschooling to support serious academic needs? Done. Countless medical appointments and therapist visits? You got it. An active and healthy life style? It’s even better, now that we’re relocated to a small town surrounded by forest and farmland.

The kids are happy, my husband’s happy, and I’m happy.  So what’s the freak out about?

*gulp*  I’m turning forty. Like really soon. (more…)


Angela is a Special Education teacher who blogs about her super-powered special needs family. She has a 3 year old with Prader-Willi Syndrome and a 5 year old with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and Sensory Processing Disorder. The odds of these random genetic events occurring at the same time are astronomical. "When you add our typically developing one year old baby boy to the mix, you have a very busy household!", she explains. Angela admits to having too many appointments, too many school problems, and being generally too busy as she tries to live life to the fullest. Please visit her family at Half Past Normal for more of their adventures! If you want to connect to chat, you can find her on Twitter @specialneedmom2 If you are interested in Special Education policies and procedures in Ontario – or just some excellent strategies and accommodations – please check out Angela's other site at Special Ed on the Bell Curve.

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